A new player has entered the fast-growing edible coatings market. US start-up Nabaco has developed a coating using nanotechnology that it claims provides a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly way of extending the shelf-life of fresh produce across the supply chain.
NatuWrap coatings are made from commonly consumed food products, including clays and natural tree extracts, which interact when combined to create an effective gas barrier, making it harder for oxygen to enter the fruit and for water vapor to exit.
“These safe, odourless, edible coatings can help fresh produce growers and shippers reduce losses, improve profitability, and stand out with their customers and consumers,” says business development manager Jack Luft.
“The manufacturing process is relatively simple, resulting in a lower price point for customers and minimal energy use which allows us to maintain a very low carbon footprint.”
Unlike other coatings, NatuWrap can be applied either pre- or post-harvest using a variety of application methods already in place. In grapes, for example, it could be sprayed directly onto the fruit while still on the vine, while in avocados it would be added as part of the washing process in the packhouse. They are available for conventional and USDA-approved organic fruit.
Luft says the results of early trials on a wide range of crops with leading US regional retailers have been very promising. An extra 2-3 days of ready-to-eat shelf-life has been achieved with avocados, while in grapes, the coatings have been found to extend the days of green stem life and reduce water loss.
In refrigerated lab settings, NatuWrap-coated blackberries have lasted for up to 14 days in refrigerated conditions without mould development.
“We’re now conducting full supply chain tests with grower-exporters across the globe,” he says. “So far, we’ve managed to achieve seven days of additional shelf-life for Honeydew melons, while a plantain trial in Ghana added 2-3 days of green shelf-life, even when the fruit was stored without refrigeration.”
The company has also lined up tests for table grapes, avocados, apples, pears, citrus and tomato.
Nabaco was founded at Texas State University in 2018 by Dr Gary Beall. He put together a technical team with decades of experience transforming R&D projects into successful commercial products across a wide range of industries—from bio-medical devices to consumer products.
“Edible coatings are going to become an integral part of the fresh produce supply chain in the future as suppliers seek more sustainable solutions to extend product shelf-life, minimise food waste and deliver fresher fruits and vegetables to consumers,” Beall says.
“Using nanotechnology, we believe we’ve developed a coating that provides a better gas barrier and provides a better return on investment than other coatings on the market.
"We’re excited by the results we’ve seen so far and look forward to showing exporters how effective NatuWrap is in full supply chain trials. Now, the next step is to collect and share the results of these trials.”